What Is Worm Composting And How Do I Do It?

Super Red european Nightcrawlers

Composting with worms

 

Worm composting also known as vermicomposting  is the use of earthworms to convert organic waste into fertilizer. If you are already an avid composter then transitioning over to worm composting should be a relatively easy task. But even if you have never heard the term vermicomposting and barely understand composting, you can still vermicompost! Just follow along to see how easy it really can be!

 

In order to get started composting with worms you will need a few things:

  1. bin/container/composter/enclosed space
  2. bedding
  3. moisture/proper PH
  4. temperature control
  5. compostable matter
  6. worms

 

worm factory

Worm Factory 360

The first thing you will want to figure out when it comes to worm composting is where you are going to do all of this. Many people will start off with a simple plastic bin which you can pretty much get at any retail or hardware store. You will want to drill holes in the bin for proper ventilation and drainage. The bin can range in size based off  your composting needs but should be a depth of at least 6 inches for the worms. People have also used containers such as old bathtubs or freezers. However, if you have the money and would like a simple composter for your worms to do their thing you can invest in a composter specifically designed for vermicomposting. Popular composters include the Worm Factory 360 and the Can-O-Worms. Both of which are available through our site. These composters are great because they come with everything you need to set up your composter as well as detailed instructions. And lastly if you live in a relatively mild climate and are able to keep the compost between 40 and 86 degrees F year round then you can have an outdoor compost pile or heap. This pile should, however, be enclosed because you will most likely be feeding these composting worms food waste and you do not want to attract any unwanted pests.

 

From the moment you set up your worm farm, the most important thing to do is make sure that the right kind of bedding material is used. Good bedding must be:

  • A neutral PH
  • Free of any sharp or abrasive things that can harm the worms’ sensitive skin
  • Retain moisture, but not too much

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    Shredded paper as bedding

  • Allow oxygen flow

There are a variety of different beddings you can choose from when it comes to starting your vermicomposting system. Many people like to start with peat moss which is an excellent choice for bedding. Peat moss is rather dry though so make sure you moisten it to properly to suit the worms. Other popular beddings include wood chips, shredded brown cardboard, shredded paper, shredded newspaper, horse or cow manure (prefe
rably aged) ,coco coir, straw, hay, fall leaves, and/or other yard waste. The key to maintaining a healthy worm bin isn’t choosing just one “best” bedding material, it’s using a variety of materials and adding them to your worm bin often. Most vermicomposters could do a little better at adding new bedding to their worm bins more frequently. When the bedding has reached desirable conditions, the worms will thrive and production will soar. Be attentive to maintaining the proper bedding and your red worms will be more than happy to compost away!

 

Moisture is extremely crucial when it comes to your worm composting system. Remember worms are a living thing and do require to be kept hydrated or at least have a properly hydrated living environment. The rule of the thumb is you want your bedding or entire compost to be damp like a wet sponge. The compost should not be sopping wet. Like Goldilocks, their bed needs to be just the right damp. Once and awhile, you need to fluff up the bedding to keep it from compacting and stinking. Also, maintaining a neutral PH in your vermicompost is essential and is acceptable between 5 and 9 with 7 being where you want to be. You can maintain the proper PH level by making smart bedding decisions as well as smart composting decisions. You will come to find that certain bedding as well as certain composting material will effect the PH of your compost. If you are ever concerned about the PH level of you vermicompost you can pick up a PH meter at you local hardware store at a relatively low cost.

 

Unlike composting where heat is always a good thing because it will break down the matter quicker. The same is not true when it comes to worm composting. Worms, again being a living creature, must live in a relatively temperature controlled environment, and they will do just fine between 40 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. When in this temperature range, the worms will continue to compost and breed. Composting and more worms, who could ask for more?!

 

Food scraps going into the composter for the worms to eat

Now let’s talk about what these worms are capable of converting into precious organic fertilizer for you! You can start feeding your red worms food scraps such as fruit and vegetable peels, pulverized egg shells, tea bags and coffee grounds. Avoid meat scraps, bones, fish, leftover dairy products and oily foods since these will make your compost pile smell as well as attract flies and rodents. Experts are divided on whether pasta and grains should be tossed into the compost or thrown away in regular garbage can. You will notice right away the amount of waste that is no longer going in your trash can. You may now be in dire need of a kitchen compost collector! When it comes to the yard, you can toss in grass clipping, raked leaves and any other organic yard waste you may have attained. You can also vermicompost animal manure. Some of the best manure for vermicomposting include horse, cow or rabbit manure. But please note, for your safety and those that eat from your garden that if you are composting manure from animals that eat high levels of animal protein like dogs, the fertilizer shouldn’t be used in your garden to make sure you aren’t spreading disease or parasites.

 

 

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Red Composting Worms

And we save the best for last, worms! What is vermicomposting without the worms?! First, you need to choose the correct worm. Not all worms were created equal after all. The Red Wiggler (Eisenia fetida) is known as the composting champion. These red worms will compost their own body weight daily and will double in population every 90 days! They truly are nature’s little wonder workers and are the go-to worm when it comes to vermicomposting. The Red Wiggler is excellent for indoor use because they can live in relatively shallow containers that you might find in most indoor composting systems. However, if you are looking for an equally
good composter but slightly heartier worm you can go with the European Night Crawler, or as Uncle Jim likes to call them the ‘Super Red’. These worms are excellent for outdoor composting because they burrow deeper into the pile and can also withstand harsher climates. The European Night Crawler is also great in the lawn and garden and makes an excellent fishing worm.

 

So now do you believe me that worm composting is an easy feat? You can get a lot of benefits from worm composting, and when you compost with these soil creatures you are  also helping preserve the earth for future generations to experience. Earthworm composting actually aids in reducing the amount of trash that gets accumulated in landfills. So instead of leaving the garbage to create and release harmful gases into the air, or deposit leaks to nearby water bodies give your food scraps and yard waste to the worms! Not only will you be serving hungry worms with organic food, you’ll also be doing your part to save the Earth from further environmental pollution! So start worm composting today to save the earth for tomorrow!

How To’s On Feeding Red Worms to Chickens

 

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Photo Credit Instagram @miaslittlefarm

I know there are a lot of chicken lovers out there, and some of them may be asking the same question; Is it a good idea to feed red worms to chickens? The answer is, yes; feeding Red Worms (or mealworms but that is a different story) to chickens is an excellent idea. Red Wiggler worms are not only good composting worms, but  they can also be used as a protein rich, nutrient packed animal food (i.e., chicken feed).

Now, if you’re thinking about growing your own worms for convenience, then go right ahead. Just know that there is a downside; it takes quite a bit of time and dedication for this self sustaining food source to multiply enough to keep up with demand of your hungry livestock. However, even with the time and energy that goes into the worm farm, you will find it to be very cost effective in the long run. You will be making fewer trips to the feed store which is not only going to save you money but also allow you more time to spend with your precious chickens!  So when you’re keeping chickens, try to invest in keeping  a worm farm as well.

If you want to immediately start feeding worms to your backyard chickens, then you can find the worms in bait shops,  local dealers, and of course online through us. You could also look into your local chicken feed suppliers who just might carry worms for a variety of purposes. You can try looking them up in a directory, or get a hold of them up online.

You can harvest and use worms in the following ways:

  1. If you have a worm bin at home, then it’s best to just get a few handfuls of the bedding’s active top layer. You should be able to get plenty of worms this way because these worms live within the top 3 inches where there is compostable material (your worm bin or compost pile).If you do not notice any worms with these handfuls, try to get a few more handfuls from the center of the bin. Make sure to spread the handfuls  out inside the chicken house so that the chickens can start feeding immediately and there is no chance of the worms crawling away or being eaten by other critters.
  2. You can harvest worms simultaneously when collecting the castings. This has a dual purpose: feeding your chickens, and allowing you to use the castings as organic fertilizer for your plants! You will be able to segregate the two by applying the dump and sort method or leaving a section under light and periodically brushing off the dirt on the top.
  3.  You can also dry the worms and have them crushed to blend into their feed. Just know that drying any food source causes nutrients to be lost and the chickens love the act of ‘hunting’ their prey. There are several different ways of drying them:
  4. Place the red worms under an electric light bulb.
  5. Place them in in a convection oven or dehumidifier.
  6. Place them in the sun.
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Photo Credit Instagram @miaslittlefarm

After they have  dried, simply grind them however you feel works best for you (e.g., food processor, mortar and pestle, a hammer, whatever).

Whether you choose to raise your own or buy them, feed them fresh and wriggling or dry and powdery, the worms are an excellent means to provide sustenance to your chickens! Red Worms are packed with all the nutrients  that most livestock or pets benefit  from.

 

Best Places to Put Worm Composting Bins

outdoor compostion on a patioA common question we get at Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm is, “Where should I put my composter?” Part of your composting success depends on its location. Let’s take a look at the best places to put your vermicomposter.

The first decision you need to make is whether you want to compost outdoors or indoors. Some folks leave their composting worms outside year-round. Others choose to compost outdoors during the warm months of the year and move operations indoors in the cold winter. And some — especially urban dwellers — go for small-scale indoor composting.

Start by looking at the volume of scraps you plan to compost. Large-scale operations for an entire apartment building, restaurant, or neighborhood may need the help of an engineer to find a perfect location. Most homeowners produce a modest amount of kitchen scraps, plus vegetation from gardening, which can be handled by a composting bin ranging from 5 to 30 gallons in volume. Odor from indoor composting is more noticeable, so matching the volume of scraps to the productivity of your composting bin is especially important. In a pinch, extra scraps can be frozen, discarded, or thrown into an outdoor compost pile.

Remember that the worm bin needs to be accessible, so that you can add scraps easily. You can place it on the path between your door and your vehicle, just outside the back door, in the garage, or right in the kitchen. If the bin is too difficult to reach, your composting program can lose momentum and fizzle out. If you dread trekking out to the composter, keep scraps in the refrigerator or freezer until you get around to it.

Outdoors

outdoor compostersIf you decide that outdoors is the right place for most or all of your composting, look around your property.

  • Don’t put it right up against the wall of a wooden house, in case insects get the wrong idea and start invading.
  • Best to find a spot under an overhang, on a porch or under a large tree. Gallons of rain can drown your worms. A worm bin with a lid is ideal, because it discourages the larger vermin and keeps most of the rain out.
  • Do not place your worm bin in direct sunlight. This will cook your worms, even on cooler days. The heat builds up, and the process of composting also generates some heat. Provide shade.
  • Breezes are great in hot weather. They help lower the bin temperature. Ideally, find a place where the wind gently blows. If the lid refuses to stay on, use bungee cords to keep it in place.

Some worm bins are huge and, when full of compost, are too heavy to move. Some are made of wood or chicken wire and cannot be moved. Think about whether you might want to move the bin to a more sheltered location in the winter. If you can empty the bin of enough finished compost, it might be light enough to move. Or, leave it in place and move some of the worms to a separate indoor bin when the weather gets cold. Some composting fans prefer to insulate their outdoor worm bin and hope that worm eggs will hatch in the spring to replace the ones that freeze.

Indoors

indoor composting near the kitchenIt’s not too hard to find a discreet place to set up an indoor composter. The basement or semi-heated garage can take a composter of any size. Smaller composters tuck easily into a closet. And fashionable, plastic tray-based composters look great in the kitchen or in a kitchen cabinet. Uncle Jim’s carries several small composters that are ideal indoors or out (such as the Worm Factory 360, the Worm Cafe and the Can-O-Worms). They keep the same footprint on the ground, but you can add trays to build up. Also, you can make space by harvesting extra compost and setting it aside until you need it.

If you decide to compost indoors, see our tips for preventing odors and problems with your indoor composter.

There is a wide variety of composters available, or you can make your own composter. Put it in a convenient location that is also sheltered from the elements. Your worms will generate fabulous compost for your garden, and you will reduce waste.

If you need worms for your composting project, order the Red Composting Worm Mix from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. We have been selling worms for more than 30 years.

Keeping Your Worm Bin Odor-Free

smell worm binEveryone loves a productive vermicomposting bin, but no one wants to smell it. At Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm, we want composting with worms to be a pleasant experience. Making free compost out of kitchen scraps and unwanted vegetation is great for gardeners. And it’s better for the environment. You can keep your environment comfortable by reducing worm bin odors.

If you have an outdoor vermicomposting bin, odor might not be too much of a concern. Unless it’s located upwind of your patio, fire pit or swimming pool, you don’t need to go crazy over a little whiff of rotting vegetation. Continue reading

Connect with Uncle Jim on Instagram and Facebook

Uncle Jim Facebook InstagramSocial media has wormed its way into our lives. At Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm, we have recently opened up an Instagram account to stay connected with you. And our Facebook account is still going strong. Did you know that we put special offers, coupons and contests on Instagram and Facebook? It’s true! We also share awesome photos of worms, composters, our happy customers, gardens – and we share seasonal tips, gardening ideas, composting knowledge and more!

Instagram is all about sharing pictures and videos. When it was launched in 2010, Instagram could only share square photos with filters (such as sepia, to make the photo look old-fashioned). Users liked its fast, easy-to-use mobile app for instant sharing from smartphones. Instagram now shows photos in any aspect ratio, not just 1:1. It also lets users upload 15-second Continue reading

How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies Near Indoor Composters or Compost Pails

fruit-fly-vacuumIf your household composts its kitchen scraps, you may have had problems with fruit flies. These tiny flies are harmless, but they are definitely annoying. And they can invade your bowl of fresh fruit, spoiling expensive produce. Whether you keep a compost pail on your countertop or use worms to break down scraps in an indoor compost bin (vermicomposting), you need to give fruit flies the boot!

Trap Them

If you start fooling around with your kitchen scraps, you will disturb the fruit flies and they will disperse. The first thing you need to do is start trapping them.

The quickest way to do this is simply to vacuum the fruit flies up. Station a vacuum cleaner where the flies are congregating. Switch on the vacuum cleaner and wave the hose in their general direction. Be careful not to vacuum up worms, worm bedding, scraps or water. When the flies come within a few inches of the business end of a vacuum hose, they will get sucked in. This seems to kill them – we have examined a bagless vacuum cleaner, and all the flies were dead. Repeat the vacuum treatment several times a day until the population has dwindled.

Meanwhile, set up a trap to catch the faster ones that outsmart your vacuum. You can buy them at the store or online. Or make your own fruit fly trap (see photo above):

Pour an inch of apple cider vinegar into the bottom of a jar. Add one drop dishwashing liquid. Place a funnel into the jar or make one using a sheet of paper. Tape the funnel in place. Fruit flies will check in, but they won’t check out. They have difficulty flying straight up. Soon enough, they will fall into the vinegar. The soap breaks the surface tension, and they will drown. Leave this near the source of the flies until the problem goes away (at least 2 weeks). You can replace the liquid if it gets dirty. Tip: don’t place it directly in the worm bin. This actually works – see photos at the bottom of this article.

Take Away Their Food

Now that the vacuum and traps are in place, get to the root of the problem by taking away their food. Fruit flies are attracted to a yeast that results from the initial decomposition of plant material. They eat fruits and vegetables and lay their eggs in them.

If you have any fresh or scrap produce on countertops, simply cover them or put them in the refrigerator. Make sure any fruit flies are brushed away or vacuumed first. In the refrigerator, you might need to store them in air-tight containers if they are already contaminated. Kitchen scraps for composting can be frozen.

In your indoor vermicomposting bin:

  • Remove any large scraps that are tough to break down.
  • If you see any very tiny white maggots or little dark pupae, chuck them outside.
  • Make sure all scraps are buried. Leave nothing on the top.
  • Sprinkle up to 1” of fresh bedding on the top. You can make it from, for example, coconut coir, pure peat moss and shredded paper mixed with water. This bedding should be a bit drier than a wrung-out sponge – too moist and it will smother your worms. Rub it between your fingers and thumb when adding, to introduce air for your worms. This extra bedding will make it really difficult for the fruit flies to find the scraps.
  • Quit adding organic matter to the bin for a while. Give the worms a chance to gobble up all the scraps. This cuts back on the amount of organic matter in the bin.
  • When you add scraps, make sure they are easy to break down. Bury them and cover with at least 1” of bedding.

Keep Going

Fruit fly eggs take around 2 weeks to develop into adult fruit flies. You need to break the breeding cycle by following this program for at least 2 weeks. As soon as you see flies, repeat the vacuuming. Make sure the fruit fly traps are in place. Keep produce off the countertops and bury the kitchen scraps in the worm bin.

Harmless but irritating, fruit flies can’t stop you from having a composting program. With very little effort, drosophila melanogaster can be eliminated from your home.

If you need composting worms, Uncle Jim recommends his Red Composting Worm Mix. Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm also carries a selection of indoor composting bins.

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How to Move Your Composting Worms Indoors for the Winter

indoor-wormIf you saw our blog post about keeping worms warm in the fall and winter, you might have decided to coddle your worms indoors during the cold season. You will be coddled too. Why? One of the huge advantages of indoor composting in the winter is this:

It’s more convenient to feed worms indoors

Trudging through the snow and ice to reach an outdoor composter means you need to put on boots at a minimum. You might also have to don warm outerwear to deposit a bucket of kitchen scraps. Some folks are outside anyway, or carry the compost out on the way to their vehicle; but for some, it’s a nuisance.

Your first step will be to decide where to do your composting. This will depend in part on the size of the composter. A huge outdoor composter might be too heavy or bulky to move indoors. If your composter is the smaller indoor/outdoor tray-based system, such as the Worm Factory 360, they can be placed indoors without much fuss. For convenience, you can leave the big composter outside and set up an additional small-footprint composter indoors. These can be ordered from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm.

Think about a spot in the house that’s out of the way and maintains a reasonable temperature. Worms are most productive at 57 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. A basement, closet, quiet corner or heated garage could work. If the area you pick gets below 55 degrees, you could look into insulating the composter or safely adding heat (without starting a fire).

You can elect to move all of your worms, or a portion of them. A large composter that hasn’t been harvested in a while could have hundreds of pounds of bedding, worms, food scraps, moisture and worm castings (fertilizer) in it.

  • If you decide to move an outdoor bin indoors, harvest the compost first to lighten the load.
  • If your composter is tray-based, you can elect to harvest several trays-worth so you just have 1-2 trays left. Extra compost can be placed in a sack for later use.

If you decide to move the worms to a different composter, it’s OK to take a portion of them. The worms that remain will probably die from the cold, but they might lay eggs before this happens.

To bring worms to the top, blend several cups of tempting kitchen scraps in the food processor and add a little water. Soft, mushy food will attract them. Place the mush at the top of the compost bin. Bury it just below the surface and wait 3-4 days. Your wiggly friends should make their way to the top and start gorging on the food. This works great for our Red Composting Worms, our champion composting worms. If you have the larger Super Red European Night Crawlers, you might have to dig them out.

While they are congregating, make sure your indoor composter is ready.

If you are bringing worms inside from outdoors, go ahead and move them. It’s not necessary to fuss with fresh bedding, but you can add fresh bedding if you like – a mix of shredded newspaper, pure peat moss or coconut coir and water will suffice. You can bring the indoor composter out to the composter and put the worms in, or use a bucket to transport them.

Gently scoop up the worms from the top and around 1”-2” of bedding. Remember, worm bedding should be the consistency of a wrung-out sponge. If it’s too wet, add shredded newspaper or leave the lid off for a while. If it’s too dry, add a little water.

Bring the worms inside and give them a feeding. Indoors, all food scraps need to be buried or you will get fruit flies, odors and other problems. Dig a hole in a corner and add the food, then bury it. At each feeding, put the new scraps next to the old scraps, and work your way around the bin over time.

Some tips for keeping indoor composters odor-free:

  • Grind or cut the scraps into tiny pieces or a slurry.
  • No bananas.
  • No dairy, meat or oils.
  • Bury the food. Always.
  • Feed them when they have made good progress on the last feeding.
  • Keep scraps in the fridge or freezer until you need them. Defrost before feeding.
  • If something isn’t breaking down, take it out.
  • Large chunks of bread — or anything else — grow mold and take forever to break down. Whip it up in the food processor, or don’t put it in your indoor composter.

You might end up with extra scraps, or scraps that aren’t suitable for indoor composting. These can be put in your outdoor bin, where they’ll start breaking down in the spring. Or, you can put the extra scraps in the garbage or kitchen sink disposal.

You might enjoy the convenience of indoor winter composter so much that you keep doing it in the spring and summer. Or, you can move your composting back outdoors. Either way, know that you are saving the earth by recycling kitchen scraps and making eco-friendly fertilizer.

How to Compost with Worms in the Fall and Winter

composter-winterThe Autumn is upon us, and it will soon be Winter in North America. You might be wondering if anything needs to be done with your vermicomposting worms in cold weather. It’s true, you can take action to preserve your worms! They will actually die in cold temperatures. You have several options, so keep reading to find out what will work best.

Do Nothing: If you keep your composter outdoors and exposed, yes, the worms will probably freeze in the winter. It’s true that the action of compost produces heat, and the worms will migrate to the warmer spots. Hopefully, the worms will lay eggs. These eggs are just fine in freezing temperatures. In the spring, when things warm up, a fresh crop of baby worms might appear. If not, you can order more composting worms at that time.

Bury It: The earth itself is an insulator. If you have a simple plastic composter, such as a large barrel-type device, you can try partially burying the bin. Harvest some of the finished compost if the bin is really full, but leave several feet of bedding. Dig a hole and put the composter in. At least half of the composter should be above ground. The worms will migrate to the warmer temperatures in the bottom half of the bin. Keep feeding them throughout the winter. They won’t eat as much. You can grind up the scraps. Bury the food so it’s easy for them to find and so they don’t have to crawl out of their warm bedding to get it.

Insulate It. Another tactic is to place an insulator around the outside of your composter. Try foam board, shredded newspaper, or straw bales. The composting process produces a small amount of heat that you can try to trap. Place the insulation so your bin’s ventilation and drainage holes are not blocked. Insulating can be done outdoors or, better yet, in a protected area such as a garage or porch. You can add heat using a lamp or heating pad, but place them carefully so you don’t start a fire. Keep the lid on. Avoid direct sunlight, because your worms could actually over-heat.

Move Indoors: Taking some or all of your worms indoors will protect them from the extreme cold. This will let you continue to compost in a convenient location. It’s also more likely the worms will survive the winter, cozy warm in your house. You might want to harvest some of your compost before moving it, if the bin is too heavy. A corner of the basement, heated garage, kitchen or closet may suffice. If you take good care of your worm bin, you won’t have a big problem with flies, pests, odors and mold. Learn more about setting up an indoor worm bin. Our Worm Factory 360 is a good choice for both indoors and outdoors. If you already have a big bin outside, you can use the smaller composter indoors in the winter.

A Non-Problem in Warm Climates: If the air temperature where you live doesn’t drop below 57°F very often, then you don’t have much to worry about. Your composting and your composting worms will slow down when it gets cool, but they won’t die. Make their lives easier by feeding less and cutting the kitchen scraps into smaller pieces. A food processor is very helpful for this. Just make sure that when it rains, your worms don’t drown. Keep them protected from too much water from above, and make sure the bin is able to drain properly.

Even in cold weather, you can keep composting and building up your supply of free fertilizer. A compost thermometer is handy for monitoring the bin’s interior temperature. Decide now what you will do with your worms over the winter, and keep going with your vermicomposting program.

Fall Composting Tips

fall-compostingIf you have a yard or garden of any size, you can turn left-over vegetation into free fertilizer by composting. Look around at all the leaves and gardens! Fall’s bounty includes left-over organic matter that you can harness. Now is your chance to boost your composting program. Here are Uncle Jim’s fall composting tips:

Gather Local Organic Material

There is plenty of compostable organic vegetation around. Not just on your property. Your neighbors might have material, too! Ask them to save stuff for you. Local coffee shops can save coffee grounds and other kitchen scraps for you. Decorative fall items like pumpkins and corn stalks are also compostable.

Vegetable gardens always have lots of left-over material from pruning, rotted fruit and veggies that didn’t get harvested in time, and some of the old vines and plants that have finished their jobs. If you are canning, you will have tons of peelings and rinds left over. Nightshade vines are not good for composters because volunteer plants tend to come up.

Raked leaves are perfect for composting. While oak leaves might be too acidic, most other types of leaves can be composted. If you shred them with your lawn mower or a shredder, they will break down even faster. Grass clippings are also good, but should be mixed in to prevent packing down – otherwise, stinky anaerobic bacteria might grow.

Avoid composting diseased plant materials. Big sticks and branches will take a long time to break down.

Choose Where to Compost

You may already have one or more existing composting systems. Your search may result in a large quantity of materials. If you need to add a composting pile for large quantities, do so.

Enclosed Vermicomposting System: These range from simple plastic tote-based worm composting bins to elaborate, multi-layered tray-based systems. For example, we show you how to make a composter from a tote in this video. Examples of tray-based systems include the Worm Factory 360, the Can-o-Worms and the Worm Café. With a system like this, be careful not to add too much organic material at once. Otherwise, you can get a horrible smell and unhealthy worms. Bury organic matter equal to the weight of the worms in a different spot every few days. Check to make sure they are keeping up. Large or dry items will take quite a long time to break down in these composters. These composters can be indoors, outdoors or in a sheltered area.

Large Outdoor Composters: Big composter are typically made of plastic or wood. They can be simple pallets nailed together, big plastic bins with holes for aeration, or plastic composters that can be rotated. See these examples of outdoor composters on the Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm website. These composters can handle a larger volume of organic materials. Composting worms will break down the material faster than no worms. If you are worried about keeping worms in these composters, get one with a lid and keep the lid on.

Chicken Wire Composter: Leaves contain a lot of air and therefore take up space. If you have significant amounts of leaves, consider making a simple chicken wire composter to break them down. See our video about making a chicken wire composter. You can use chicken wire composters with or without adding composting worms. Obviously, these worms might escape if they run out of food or get a better offer!

How to Compost

Smaller pieces will break down faster than larger pieces. If it’s convenient, use a knife or food processor to break down the organic matter. No need to go crazy here, because you might be dealing with a lot of volume in the fall. This is where a larger composter comes in handy, because you can add more stuff.

Unneeded veggies can be stored in the fridge or freezer. Defrost and meter them out to yourcomposting worms over time.

Organic matter that doesn’t break down too fast, such as dry leaves, can be stored. You can add them to your composting bin over time. If you have worms, remember that burying the material helps them find it and break it down faster.

When It Gets Cold

Make hay while the sun shines! The colder it gets, the more your worms and composting process will slow down. Below around 57 degrees, the worms go dormant. They still need food, but they eat at a slower pace. Freezing temperatures stop the composting process and can kill your worms. Either move your worms indoors or to a warmer area (here’s how), or hope that new worms will hatch from eggs in the Spring.

Keep an eye out for all the great organic material in your neighborhood. Turn it into a rich fertilizer for next Spring’s garden by composting. It’s cheaper for you, and better for the environment.

The best composting worms are Uncle Jim’s Red Wiggler Mix. Our Super Reds are best to release into the garden for aeration and composting.

We Love These Composters So Much, We are Giving Away Free Worms

worm-can-cafeHere at Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm, we believe in giving you value for money for your composting supplies and composting worms. Specifically, we are so smitten with the Worm Café® and Can-O-Worms® composters, we are giving away our famous Red Wiggler Composting Worm Mix with each purchase (for a limited time only). What makes these composters so special, and why the free worms?

A company called Tumbleweed makes the Worm Café and Can-O-Worms composting systems. These innovative composters come complete with bedding, printed instructions, a tap, and compostable cardboard packaging – and there are setup instructions in online videos on our website. The Worm Café lists for $159, but we are offering it for $119 with free shipping (US only) and 1,000 Red Composting Worms to get you started (limited time offer – visit our Worm Café page to check pricing and order). Can-O-Worms lists for $139, however, our price is just $119 and includes the 1,000 Red Composting Worms for free (limited time offer – visit our Can-O-Worms page to check pricing and order). Let’s see which one would work best for you.

These composters are made from 100% recycled, durable plastic built to last many years. Both are on legs for easy access: 4 on the rectangular Worm Café, and 5 on the circular Can-O-Worms. The Worm Café has an added feature: special caps on the legs to help deter ants and mice.

Both are tray-based composting systems. This means that the worms start out living in the lower tray. When that tray is full of compost, add another tray on top with some bedding and food. The worms will naturally gravitate toward the food and move up through the mesh holes in the bottom of the tray. Eventually, you can pull out the lower tray – which won’t have many worms in it – and put the compost in your garden, or make worm tea. The Worm Café comes with three trays; the Can-O-Worms has two.

Each comes with a special blanket. Just lay the blanket on top of your “working tray,” which is the tray where you are adding kitchen scraps and shredded paper or cardboard for food. This allows for easy feeding, because you are not required to bury to the food. (You can bury the food if you want to.) The worms will feel completely comfortable moving to the top of the bedding to eat the food if there is a blanket on top.

In addition to the blanket, you should use the included lid. The Worm Café lid has some added features: it can easily be attached to the top tray when you open the composter. This is more convenient than trying to set it on the ground, and it prevents you from tripping on it. Also, the Worm Café lid is fly-proof.

Ventilation is important to any composter. Without proper ventilation, the worms might suffocate; plus, it can create an environment conducive to anaerobic bacterial growth. Worm Café has unique side ventilation to allow cross-flow without letting much rain in. A special design feature of the Can-O-Worms are the small mounds in the center of each tray – they allow for flow-through ventilation and let worms easily climb up to the next highest tray.

Why are we including 1,000 free Uncle Jim’s Red Composting Worms? We want you to have fun with one of these great composters! You can help save the environment by turning trash into valuable nutrients for your garden. Also, you will love it! And kids love it, too! Watch the Can-O-Worms video to see what we mean.